Values of our waterways
Waterways in Western Australia have intrinsic ecological value and also provide a wide range of ecosystem services. Ecosystem services result from a waterway's hydrology, landforms, vegetation, fauna, and micro-organisms, which function together as an ecosystem to provide beneficial outcomes for people, and other ecosystems.
The economic benefits provided by healthy waterway ecosystems include:
- clean water for drinking and domestic use
- water appropriate for maintaining public spaces including sports grounds
- water appropriate for agriculture and industry (production of food and goods)
- maintenance of soil fertility through inundation of agricultural land
- movement of water through the landscape for irrigation, drainage and flood management
- commercial enterprise such as transport of goods and passengers, commercial fishing and aquaculture, recreation industries (e.g. sailing, water skiing) and tourism
- control of pests (e.g. mosquito larvae eaten by native fish)
- increased property values due to amenity and visual appeal
Waterways have cultural and spiritual value for many people in Western Australia, particularly Aboriginal people. They are important for the customs and spiritual beliefs of the Aboriginal community. They are linked to important sources of food, such as waterfowl, tortoises, fish, rhizomes, bulbs and roots, and they were also significant trade routes and camping sites. Waterways and their foreshores may contain artefacts or objects such as fishtraps, or be significant for spiritual and ceremonial reasons. Aboriginal sites are protected under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972. For more information see the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Water Note 30: Safeguarding Aboriginal Heritage.
Historically waterways were a focal point for explorers and settlers, and many towns and cities were established near rivers and estuaries based on reliable sources of freshwater, safe anchorages and an abundance of food including fish.
Waterways provide opportunities for recreational activities such as swimming, boating and fishing and foreshore areas provide space for walking, cycling and gathering for social occasions. Waterways provide a sense of place and identity for many people, and are appreciated for their aesthetic beauty within the landscape.
Waterways and foreshore areas play a vital role in human health, wellbeing and development. Recent research shows that accessibility to natural areas can reduce crime, foster psychological wellbeing, reduce stress, increase productivity and promote healing (see Healthy parks, healthy people: the health benefits of contact with nature.Waterways within our towns and cities are a means for many people to connect with both water and the natural environment.
The intrinsic ecological values of waterways include a diverse range of aquatic fauna such as fish, invertebrates (such as crayfish, crabs, snails, octopus, shellfish, and macroinvertebrates),cetaceans such as dolphins, water birds, frogs, reptiles (e.g. snakes, turtles and crocodiles) and water rats.
Waterways act as refuges for terrestrial fauna species during times of drought and as corridors for dispersal. Waterways also support a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial flora species and vegetation communities - see aquatic and riparian vegetation, macroalgae and seagrass.
These ecological values contribute to the south-west of Western Australia being one of the world's 35 biodiversity hotspots, which include some of the richest and most threatened reservoirs of plant and animal life on earth. They also contribute to the large number of waterways and water bodies that have been identified as high value waterways.
The provision of economic and social values to our communities, and the maintenance of environmental values are dependent on our waterways being in good ecological condition.
For further information about waterways see: